Lippi hails progress of Chinese soccer

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Italian legendary coach Marcello Lippi said Saturday that the historical title-taking feat of Guangzhou Evergrande reflected the progress made by the disillusionary Chinese soccer.

"Winning an international title like the AFC Champions League is very important to Guangzhou as well as to China," said the 65-year-old. "In my opinion, Guangzhou's glory is a kind of confirmation to the soccer level of the whole country."

After tying South Korea's reigning K-League champions FC Seoul 2-2 in the first leg away match and 1-1 here Saturday night at home, Lippi's Evergrande wrapped up the AFC Champions League final 3-3 on aggregate and lifted the trophy with away goal advantage.

"Everyone can see that the Guangzhou squad has grown a lot, more skilled, more organized and more thirsty to win," he added. "The victory earned by the team showed how our players have progressed. A big batch of them are national players at the same time."

The triumph is China's first Asian triumph in 23 years as the country's soccer fans, who had little to celebrate on both national and professional level in last decade, have not tasted continental success since Liaoning in 1990.

"Today's game went as we planned. We created a lot of oppotunities in the first half but failed to score before Elkeson finally found the net at around the hour mark," said Lippi at a post-match press conference. "We didnot commit a leak until the 62nd minute but FC Seoul seized it."

"It's pretty dangerous for us after we're leveled, but by the end of the game, we managed to hold on the draw."

With the Asian crown, Lippi became the first coach to win both the European and the Asian club championships.

It's also another title-winning game for Lippi without a straight vicotry in 90 minutes. The 65-year-old Italian directed Italy to the 2006 FIFA World Cup title and Italian club Juventus to the 1996 UEFA Champions League crown, both through penalty kickout.

"I could faithfully speak from my heart that Guangzhou Evergrande deserve the champions," said Lippi at a post-match press conference.

Taking home the title with draws from both away and home games brought in a lot of voices to question on the "gold content" of the Evergrande's trophy, but Lippi declined to agree.

"You should look back at our performance en route to the final," he said. "We won all way long to get here and I think we totally deserve to stand on top podium."

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